Monday, February 13, 2012

Upward Mobility

On Saturday morning, I interviewed a teenager who lives in what sounds like a chaotic household. A couple of the nighttime e-mails I’ve gotten from her have been sent at or after 1:30 a.m. At the end of our hour together, we hugged instead of shaking hands.

She mentioned, more than once, that she wishes she had a parent who pushed her and set an example of how to be worldly and upwardly mobile. I’ve never heard a kid say that, mid-upbringing. That’s more typically a post-upbringing reflection of someone who’s shocked everyone by having officially “made it” or someone who’s bitter about not having made it. In any event, this girl is hell-bent on upwardly mobilizing herself, and it’s clear that the teachers she’s had are the ones who have served as her proxy life coaches. A scenario that happens all the time, yet never enough.

Like most Libras, I’ve always been indecisive. When I was trying to figure out what career to take up, I thought about veterinary medicine, museum curating, clinical psychology, journalism, law, K-12 schoolteaching. Aside from the “another lawyer?” jokes offered up by the kinds of middle-aged men who are always worrying about being sued, the only prospective path that was ever openly scoffed at was the schoolteaching. It wasn’t considered a fitting ambition for the go-getters.

I watched the Grammys last night, a week after watching the Super Bowl. Extravaganzas like these usually get me thinking about misallocations. Misallocations of resources, misallocations of priorities. When I turned on my computer this morning, one of the first things I read was a poll question about Bruce Springsteen’s opening act. Here’s a poll question I’d be interested in putting out there: When they first demonstrated the drive and talent to earn their livings as entertainers and athletes, how many of this month’s Grammy winners and Giants players got laughed at?


  1. I want to know what circumstances preceded your interview. Sounds like an interesting story. And, yes, I would think that a lot drive and talent goes unnoticed, more than ever gets recognized on shows like the Grammys. But I do think though that shows like it -- the Super Bowl, the Grammys, etc. -- remind us about dreaming big and the kinds of doors that are opened for us when we live out our passions.

  2. Being an Aries (your direct opposite) I find that I'm quite indecisive too but only to a degree. Once I make a decision, it sticks (until something better comes along ;P).

    Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly on the misallocation of resources. We have a similar problem here in SA - where MP's see it fit to throw HUGE extravaganzas while their brethren struggle to find clean water. *sigh*

  3. From time to time my 27-year-old daughter accuses me of having "pressured" her while she was in grade school through high school. Well, DUH. Almost every parent has to do that from time to time. In her college years, I wasn't there to pressure her, but her work habits were so drilled into her that during her sophomore year she earned an extra scholarship after being selected as the "Best Student in the School of Communication," and she graduated Summa cum Laude. Now she is herself a middle school teacher, and I hear all about "her" kids and her efforts to encourage them to excel. I'm not trying to brag here (well, maybe a little), but I'm just saying that it takes both the parents and teachers and many fact, it takes an entire village to raise a child. I'm so glad to hear that you are part of the village for that particular teenager, Kadzi.

  4. Kids like that young woman are a true breath of fresh air. Wish I had more like her in my classroom. So many of my students reject guidance and good advice, and when I talk to their parents about it, they justify their kids' behavior with a multitude of excuses. Glad to hear this girl has her head on straight, in spite of the lack of guidance at home. Gives us all hope for the future.